June is a great month in the football world, as the docket slows somewhat as NFL teams wrap up OTAs, college teams are still a month away from camps, and the pace generally relaxes. It’s a good time to handle some other business – say, tending to the backyard crop of corn and resurfacing some concrete as I have been the past few weeks – but fear not, football is right around the corner. With that in mind, it’s time to continue my look at the group of QBs to watch for the draft. In Part 1 of this, we looked at 10 rising seniors and here, we’ll go through 10 more seniors to keep on your radar once the games kick off at the end of August. As with Part 1, these names are in no particular order.
Logan Woodside, Toledo
Bio: After seeing significant action in 2014 as a sophomore, Woodside redshirted in 2015 and retained junior eligibility for the 2016 season. He returned to the starting lineup and was named a first-team All-MAC selection, throwing 29 touchdown passes and leading the conference with 317.6 passing yards per game. Woodside was impressive in terms of completion percentage, completing 69.1 percent of his passes which placed him fourth in the nation. He enters his senior season on numerous watch lists, including the Davey O’Brien Award, the Manning Award, the Maxwell Award, and even the Heisman Trophy.
What Intrigues Me: Woodside has pretty good footwork, and displays clean mechanics whether in the pocket or on the move. In Toledo’s offense, while there are a number of RPO concepts and spread-type designs, he can still execute full-field reads when the situation requires. On RPO designs, Woodside displays very good processing speed, reacting quickly to the defense and usually making the right decision with the football. When he is forced out of the pocket or off the spot, he does a good job keeping his eyes downfield and working the scramble drill.
What I’m Watching in 2017: He can be a streaky passer, and – despite his high completion percentage – his accuracy and ball placement can dip at times. He also has a tendency to stare down his primary read at times. I’m curious to see if the coaching staff puts more on his plate in his senior season.
Riley Ferguson, Memphis
Bio: Ferguson had big shoes to fill at Memphis, with the first-round selection of Paxton Lynch by the Denver Broncos in the 2016 NFL Draft. But the rising senior earned the starting job and the offense stayed right on track this past season, with points per game and passing yards per game mirroring the 2015 levels. (Memphis averaged 40.2 points per game in 2015, and 38.8 in 2016. In terms of passing yards, the Tigers averaged 307.5 in 2015, and 304.4 last year). Ferguson completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 3,698 yards and 32 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions.
What Intrigues Me: Ferguson operates Memphis’s spread offense well, but also demonstrates some NFL-level traits within the scheme. He shows good timing and placement on routes such as curls and hitches, and climbs the pocket well when facing edge pressure. He can make some bucket throws down the field, particularly on vertical routes along the boundaries. Despite the offensive system, he displays solid footwork on three-step drops from the shotgun formation. Ferguson is also able to make anticipation throws from time to time, and displays good processing speed on RPO designs.
What I’m Watching in 2017: From a mechanical standpoint, Ferguson needs some work. His lower body involvement is spotty, and he tends to lean back away from his target, resulting in his lower half working against him on the throw. He also has a draw / loop to his throwing motion, very similar to Garrett Grayson when he was at Colorado State. Finally, his upper body timing can be off at times, which leads to accuracy issues. I’m curious to see if he cleans up his throwing technique in the year ahead.
Richard Lagow, Indiana
Bio: Lagow originally enrolled at Oklahoma State in 2013, but then transferred to Cisco Community College in Texas for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. He started during both seasons he was enrolled at Cisco, and in 2015 he completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,285 yards and 21 touchdowns, against 10 interceptions. He then transferred to Indiana for the 2016 season and earned the Hoosiers starting job, starting all 13 games including their bowl appearance against Utah in the Foster Farms Bowl. Lagow completed 57.8 percent of his passes for 3,362 yards and 19 touchdowns, with 17 interceptions. His numbers placed him second in school history for single-season passing yardage, third in school history for attempts, and he ranked second in the Big Ten in passing yards per game.
What Intrigues Me: Lagow fits the mold of a classic pocket passer, with ideal size (listed at 6’6” 240 pounds) and the arm to match. His footwork in the pocket is generally solid, although interestingly his five-step drops tend to be crisper than his three-step drops, despite the fact that Indiana’s offense asks him to execute far more three-step drops. He can make some impressive anticipation throws, and shows a good level of trust in his receivers on those plays. He has a very quick release, although it is more of a catcher’s throwing motion, with the release point coming closer to his ear than over-the-top. This does lead to a number of tipped passes at the line of scrimmage, more than you would expect from a QB of his size. His throws come with good-to-great velocity, and he also displays good play strength in the pocket and the ability to make throws under duress.
What I’m Watching in 2017: In addition to the release point, I’m watching Lagow next season to see if he speeds up his decision-making, as there were times that he was slow to get to his second or third read in a progression. Also, there were times when he forced throws into coverage – as the 17 interceptions indicates – and he’ll need to cut down on mistakes. Finally, I’m curious to see if he sticks with the number 21 or changes to a more traditional quarterback number. #NumberAestheticsTwitter
Troy Williams, Utah
Bio: Williams began his collegiate career at the University of Washington, following a stellar high school career in the Los Angeles area. Williams was ranked as the #1 dual-threat quarterback recruit by Rivals and the #2 dual-threat quarterback by ESPN, and enrolled with Washington, where he appeared in five games for the Huskies with one start in 2014. He then transferred to Santa Monica College for the 2015 season, where he threw for 2,750 yards and 21 touchdowns with only four interceptions. Last year, he transferred to Utah and despite being a newcomer, he not only won the starting quarterback job but was named a team captain. Williams started all 13 games, completing 53.1 percent of his passes for 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Under his leadership and play, the Utes were ranked as high as #11 in the Associated Press poll, but losses down the stretch to Oregon and Colorado saw them fall out of the Top 25 by the end of the regular season. They pulled out a victory over Lagow and the Hoosiers in the Foster Farms Bowl.
What Intrigues Me: Williams is a very athletic quarterback, and demonstrates very good processing speed on RPO plays as well as simplified half-field concepts such as curl / flat, slant / flat, and go / out. He has a pretty good throwing motion, with solid mechanics, a good over-the-top delivery, and the ability to dial up velocity when necessary. He makes anticipation throws from the pocket, and throws very well when on the move. Williams also shows good play strength in the pocket, with the ability to avoid sacks against unblocked defenders. He can also be very effective as a ball carrier, and in the option game.
What I’m Watching in 2017: First, Williams needs to secure the starting spot for the year ahead. Despite starting all 13 games and being named a team captain, he is being pushed from behind by rising sophomore Troy Huntley and transfer Cooper Bateman. In their bowl game against Indiana, Huntley saw a decent amount of action including late in a close game. Reports out of Salt Lake City are that Williams pulled ahead in the open competition during spring football, but he’ll need to lock down the position in preseason camp. Provided that he does, accuracy and decision-making are the two areas I’m watching for improvement. Williams can be a very streaky passer, and when he struggles, he starts to press, leading to mistakes with the ball.
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Bio: Barrett returns to Columbus for his final season of eligibility, looking to cap off a strong career for the Buckeyes with a run at a national title. After redshirting in 2013, he was expected to carry the bags for Braxton Miller in 2014, but when Miller suffered a shoulder injury, Barrett became the starter and led Ohio State to an undefeated regular-season record, but in the finale against Michigan, he suffered a broken ankle and was lost for the post-season. In stepped Cardale Jones, who led the Buckeyes to the national title in place of Barrett. All three quarterbacks returned to school for 2015, and while Miller moved to receiver, Barrett and Jones both saw time at quarterback. That season Barrett threw for 992 yards and 11 touchdowns, with four interceptions. But last year, with both Miller and Jones off to the NFL, the job was all his. He responded by throwing for 2,555 yards and 24 touchdowns, with seven interceptions.
What Intrigues Me: With his level of experience, it should be no surprise that Barrett is very active in the pre-snap phase, adjusting alignments, calling out defenders and blitzers, and generally running the show at the line of scrimmage, even when the coaches call in plays from the sidelines. He is athletic, proficient in the RPO game, and shows sufficient velocity on most throws. He demonstrates decent processing speed in the RPO game as well. Barrett can make full-field reads when asked, and displays the ability to manipulate second- and third-level defenders with his eyes in the passing game.
What I’m Watching in 2017: I’m curious to see if Barrett can expand his game and demonstrate he can be more than a good-to-elite college quarterback. While he shows decent processing speed in the RPO game, his processing and play speed can slow down when the playbook expands beyond those designs, leading to poor decisions and missed opportunities. In addition, his accuracy can be spotty at times, particularly when he is forced to get to a second- or third-read.
Jeremiah Briscoe, Sam Houston State
Bio: Dropping down a level we find one of the most prolific passers in the Football Championship Subdivision. Briscoe enters his senior campaign as one of the most decorated players in the FCS, having earned the Walter Payton Award in 2016, becoming the first Bearkat and only the second player from the Southland Conference to be named the top offensive player in the FCS. He set a FCS record with 57 touchdown passes, breaking the record of 56 set in 1984 by Willie Totten of Mississippi Valley State (27 of which went to Jerry Rice) and matched in 2005 by Bruce Eugene from Grambling State. Briscoe started all 13 games for Sam Houston, throwing for 4,602 yards and the 57 TDs, against 10 interceptions, and averaged 354.0 passing yards per game.
What Intrigues Me: The Bearkats run a very uptempo spread offense that utilizes a number of Air Raid concepts, giving Briscoe many opportunities to throw the football. He has a very big arm, and shows pretty good three- and five-step drops from the shotgun. His ball placement is solid, and can be very good at times. Briscoe is at his best throwing curls, slants, and bang-eight post routes, and delivers the ball with good zip and velocity on those patterns. He displays pretty good processing speed overall, but is best when the Bearkats use RPO concepts. He is fairly clean from a mechanical standpoint, and demonstrates good competitive toughness. In their first-round playoff game against the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga he was heavily pressured but led the Bearkats to the win. (As an aside, the Sam Houston coaching staff believe that one of his favorite targets, Yedidiah Louis, is the best slot receiver in the country. Having watched a lot of their games, they have an argument).
What I’m Watching in 2017: In that game against UTC, Briscoe was pressured and you could see both accuracy and decision-making dip, and he threw a poor pick six early that let the Mocs back into the contest. During the regular season he was only sacked eight times, but the tremendous pressure from the UTC defensive front impacted his performance. I’d like to see him be better in those situations in 2017.
Jarrett Pekelo Kahanuolaokalani “Anu” Solomon, Baylor
Bio: Anu Solomon was a four-star recruit as a high school senior in the Las Vegas area, and was heavily recruited by a number of West Coast schools before enrolling at the University of Arizona. He redshirted as a true freshman in 2014 before earning the starting job in 2015. That season he led the Wildcats to a 10-2 regular season record, including a victory over then number-two Oregon in Eugene. He threw for 3,793 yards and 28 touchdown passes, with nine interceptions, while completing 58 percent of his throws. In 2015 his numbers improved in part, as he completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 20 touchdowns, with only five interceptions. The Wildcats began the year ranked in the Top 25, but lost a number of games in the Pac-12, finishing the regular season with a 6-6 record. They capped off the year with a win over New Mexico in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. As a redshirt Junior, Solomon struggled last year, battling injuries and missing a number of games. In limited action, he completed 58.7 percent of his passes for one touchdown and two interceptions. Following the season, it was announced he was transferring to Baylor University to play for new head coach Matt Rhule.
What Intrigues Me: What first stands out watching Solomon is his ability as a downfield passer, particularly on vertical routes along the boundary, and if the Bears run the offense they have been using the past few years with lots of hitch / go concepts, Solomon would fit right in. He can use touch when necessary, can dial up the velocity when needed, and is very good on the move, demonstrating the ability to keep his eyes downfield and not drop them to stare down the rush. He is a decisive quarterback, and while this can get him into trouble at times, he usually makes good decisions, as evidenced by the low number of interceptions. He shows pretty good footwork in the pocket, can be elusive at times against the rush, and his athleticism makes him very effective on RPO designs or when he can press the line of scrimmage and force defenders to commit to either the QB run or a passing option in the flat.
What I’m Watching in 2017: Solomon could stand to improve his accuracy and ball placement in the short- and intermediate-areas of the field, and could also use some improvement on his situational awareness. In addition, I’m curious to see what offense he’ll be running at Baylor, and how well he executes the concepts.
Max Browne, University of Pittsburgh
Bio: Browne was a highly-regarded recruit coming out of the state of Washington, where he was twice selected as the Gatorade Player of the Year and led his high school team to three straight state championship games, winning in his final two years. He was wooed by Alabama, Washington, Oklahoma, and the University of Southern California, and decided to take his talents to L.A. and the Trojans. He was redshirted in 2013 after Cody Kessler was named the starting quarterback, and in 2014 and 2015 he backed up the future Cleveland Brown. When Kessler left for the NFL, he assumed the starting job for the 2016 season, but a combination of poor play and the presence of redshirt freshman Sam Darnold saw him eventually give way to the younger QB. After the season, he announced his decision to transfer east to Pittsburgh.
What Intrigues Me: Browne has seen limited action over the past few years, but at times shows the promise that he displayed during high school. He makes aggressive decision with the football, with a willingness to challenge some throwing windows that other quarterbacks might shy away from. He hangs in the pocket well and displays good pocket presence, and is very good on half-field reads. Browne is perhaps most effective on smash concepts and similar variants, and executes these plays very well. He also demonstrates good velocity on his throws, and is effective in scramble drill situations.
What I’m Watching in 2017: Provided he takes over in place of Nathan Peterman, Browne would benefit from speeding up his process as he moves through his progression reads. He also has a bit of a loop to his delivery, which could be cleaned up and improved.
Quinton Flowers, University of South Florida
Bio: Flowers earned the starting job as a sophomore in 2015, and started all 13 games for the Bulls, turning in one of the best years in school history at the position. A true dual-threat QB, Flowers threw for 2,296 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2015 with eight interceptions, but also carried the ball 191 times for 991 yards and 12 scores. Those numbers were good, but nothing compared to what Flowers posted in 2016. Last year he completed 62.5 percent of his throws for 2,812 yards and 24 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions, while rushing the ball 198 times for 1,530 yards and 18 scores. He became the first player in both USF and the state of Florida history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a single season, and his 4,337 yards of total offense stand as a USF school record. The Bulls finished the regular season with a 10-2 record, and capped off their strong 2016 year with a victory over South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl.
What Intrigues Me: Flowers is active pre-snap in the Bulls’ spread attack, and when the action starts he shows good footwork, particularly on three-step drops, and in the context of their offense his footwork is very impressive. He has good arm talent and velocity and is very elusive in or out of the pocket, and as his rushing numbers indicate he is a true threat with the football in his hands. He throws pretty well on the move, and has clean mechanics with a crisp, quick release. Competitive toughness is a box he checks off rather easily, and for reference you can watch USF against Syracuse. Early in that game the Bulls were trailing, but he tracked down a running play across the field to throw a block to help jumpstart the offense. That’s an effort that makes teammates want to play for you as a QB.
What I’m Watching in 2017: Flowers can miss some throws high at times, and you wonder if that is due in part to his size (listed at 6’0”). The offense has lots of screen passes with a number of trips and quad formations, so I’m curious to see if they put even more on his plate as he enters his senior year and third as the starting QB. There are also times when he looks to run rather than work progressions, which can be understood given his ability as a ball carrier, but might be a negative for NFL scouts.
Danny Etling, Louisiana State University
Bio: The LSU Tigers entered the 2016 campaign with a lot of promise, deploying a stout defense and a talented offense built around Leonard Fournette, Derrius Guice, a pair of talented receivers in Travis Dural and Malachi Dupre, and returning starter Brandon Harris at quarterback. But the offense struggled early and the coaches turned to Etling, the transfer from Purdue, in Week 2 and he never looked back. He started the final ten games for the Tigers, and completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 2,123 yards and 11 touchdowns, with five interceptions. Etling transferred to the SEC following two years in the Big Ten with the Boilermakers where over two years he appeared in 13 games, with 12 starts. He started the final seven games for Purdue as a freshman in 2013, and completed 55.8 percent of his passes for 1,690 yards and ten scores.
What Intrigues Me: LSU’s offense is based upon the running game and relies on the quarterback operating under center, so prepare yourself for Etling receiving the coveted “pro-style offense” tag in the year ahead. He executes pretty solid drops from either center or the shotgun, with his three-step drops looking more crisp and technically sound than his five-step drops, where he tends to drift a bit at the top of the drop. He demonstrates good placement and velocity on most throws, and is good on the move, particularly to his right. He slides and moves in the pocket pretty well, and can make full-field reads and works through progressions when necessary.
What I’m Watching in 2017: Right now Etling is more of a “see it, throw it” passer who could stand to show an ability to make anticipation throws. He also tends to lock onto his first read, particularly on 3rd and long situations. Etling does have a lower body mechanical issue right now, as he tends to step in the bucket and away from his target. One example comes on an early throw to the flat against Southern Mississippi, on a 1st and 10 situation on the LSU 43-yard line. His target is wide open in the flat and the play goes for a long gain, but the mechanics are what I am studying. Another mechanical issue that arises is that sometimes the timing of his upper body and lower body are mismatched, and the upper body fires before the lower body rather than moving in one fluid motion. An example of that comes on a 3rd and 5 situation later in that same game, on this throw to Malachi Dupre. The pass goes for a touchdown, but the mechanics are the consideration going forward for Etling.
Twenty rising seniors down, with many more quarterback to come. In the third installment of this series, we’ll close out the rising senior class of signal callers to watch, and start working our way through the underclassmen in what looks to be a very talented group of rising sophomores and juniors.